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Bush mechanics 1  

Just the word strikes fear into folks and conjures up images of toothless wonders with greasy hair, raggedy clothes and oily rag dangling from his back pocket, stooping over your pride and joy where you have broken down somewhere between the hell and the tall grass. The fact of the matter is that if it wears a skirt or has four wheels it will give you trouble and cost you money, weird stuff happens to good people and if you don’t know better than toothless wonder is probably your best bet to reaching some sort of civilization. With a bit of knowledge and a lot of ingenuity, you can get yourself out of a sticky situation without too much stress and as a bonus, the wife will think you are the proverbial knight in shining armor. I just need to make one point; bush mechanics are not backyard mechanics. Backyard mechanics are normal parts fitters working from home whereas bush mechanics get you going with what is at hand, the difference is ingenuity.

Ingenuity and determination alone are not going to do the trick, you will need some tools. The cheapest rubbish is better than not having any but I would recommend getting a fairly decent set of tools. It does not have to be snap-on quality but the pressed steel excuses that one finds in the fancy plastic boxes with 101 bits in does not cut it, they are designed to be bought by laypeople and to spend their time tucked away in some cupboard, never to be used.
Firstly you need a set of ring set spanners from 8 to 19mm. these are the ones with a ring on the one side with an open end on the other side.
Next follows a set of screwdrivers with flat and star points.
Throw in a sturdy pair of pliers and a sharp side cutter and you are halfway there.

The above-mentioned tools are what I would consider as being the bare minimum, I have a canvas roll that all fits in to as permanent residents in my Pajero. Tip Take the wife's sewing machine and sew a canvas or fabric rollup caddy for the tools, it not only keeps everything together and stops it from rattling but also enables you to spot anything missing when you have finished working.

To expand the basic toolset I would add a good shifting spanner and gas pliers. These are two tools that you don’t want to skimp on as it can create more problems than it solves. The cheaper units do not grip the bolts properly and are prone to slipping and in the process rounding off the shoulders of the nuts or bolts not to mention the bruised knuckles and blood loss that accompany these little slips.  Another essential is a decent wheel spanner as the last thing you need is for the cheapie that came with the vehicle to break leaving you staring at the flat wheel on the car while the perfectly serviceable spare remains firmly on its bracket. I use one of these extendable units that can double as a ½” drive power bar. Tip invest in a 24 socket as it is needed to remove that plow of a tow bar of yours when doing the off-road thing. I have found a very nifty set of box spanners at Midas that come in handy when access is compromised. Allen keys are another one of those handy bits to have and do not take up too much space and with a pair of long-nose pliers and a couple of vise grips should round off the toolset.
You will notice that on the smaller sizes of spanners I carry doubles as one often has a bolt and nut of the same size and you need two spanners to loosen it.

That should take care of the basic essential tools and with a few nice to haves and essential spares you are on your way to becoming a self-sufficient bush mechanic.

Spares, Bits & Pieces
As with the tools, the quantity of spares you carry depends on you and your vehicle. For a series Landy you would require a lot more than for a Pajero and I am going to list what I feel is essential. The danger with spares is that you could end up needing a truck to transport it all. I must point out that this list is aimed at petrol engines, as for diesel I have no experience.
Starting from the front: Spare lamps for indicator, headlights and tail lights

  •                 If you have spots a spare for them as well.
  •                 Full set of fan belts. We all know the myth of nylon stockings. It does not work it is a myth.           
  •                 Radiator hoses (both)
  •                 Spare thermostat
  •                 Spark plugs
  •                 Spare rotor and dizzy cap and the longest ht lead spare.
  •                 Oil and fuel filter as well as 1m fuel line & clamps.
  •                 Fuses.

Other bits & bobs

  • Workshop manual for your vehicle
  • Oil for engine, gearbox & diff as well as power steering
  • Q20 or similar
  • Insulation tape (good quality e.g. Nitto)
  • Some electrical wire & resin core solder (I carry some plumbing solder and a bit of flux as well as it has very good capillary action and seems to melt at a lower temperature, flux = corrosive)
  • Cable ties and binding wire (non-insulated hard steel)
  • Selection of bolts and nuts & bolts 6 – 10mm. Washers & split pins.
  • A few pairs of surgical gloves (it is handy to throw away the dirt after changing a tyre)
  • Tyre repair kit 
  • Silicone gasket maker
  • Pratley Putty and epoxy
  • Some metal sandpaper 80 & 600 grit.
  • A piece of waterproof tarpaulin about 2m X 2m to work on.

I think that is enough toys for a start let’s start playing with them.
The best bit of advice I can give you is to get to know your vehicle before you get stuck.

Picture this, you are driving along enjoying the trip and when you look down the battery light is glaring at you……..Not good, without power being put back in the battery, the engine will die in about 80 km or roughly 90min as you have no ignition and your computer will shut down. You pull over and open the bonnet.
1st option the fan belt has snapped. That is why you carry a spare. Let things cool a bit while you get the replacement belt and tools.  
Slack off the tensioners and fit the new belt and check for any damage, sharp edges on pulleys and such. If any, use your sandpaper to smooth things out. The workshop manual comes in handy to route the fan belt and advice to tension for the new belt. Tip If you start the engine and rev it up and the belt screeches at you the tension is too low, tighten the belt more without over-tightening it. For squeaky noises from a new belt check that is not too tight, if not apply a candle to the underside of the belt while the engine is running, the wax will lubricate the rubber without damaging it. Watch out for your fingers and the fan blades. That was the easy one. 
2nd Option. Belt ok and the alternator turns with the motor. Now things are getting interesting.
1st Check the electrical connections and make sure there are no burnt wires or terminals.
2nd Check that you have 12v on the alternator as an alternator needs power to make power.
3rd Last resort it is probably brushes are worn out or voltage regulator (unlikely). Brushes wearing can be diagnosed by the charge light coming on dimly for a while and going off when revving the motor.
Unfortunately, there is no other way to confirm your suspicion other than removing the alternator and opening the unit. On Bosch alternators (#2) one can remove the voltage regulator and brushes as a unit without removing the alternator but the Mitsu ones (#1) I have seen needs to be stripped. Once again the manual comes in handy. Disconnect the battery BEFORE you start working.

The horrid moment has arrived. You have opened the alternator and found the brushes worn down and your toolbox is not the local Midas that is 300km away. You do not have a spare set of brushes and you are stuck. Not so, the bush mechanics on page dirty advises:- Grab the first torch with normal batteries in and take one of the batteries out. Note it must be a normal and NOT a rechargeable battery. Normal batteries are zinc-carbon units and the carbon is exactly what we need. Use a side cutter and remove the outer cover of the battery. Do not worry as there is no battery acid or messy stuff inside and we do not go deep enough to get to the paste.
Looking at the photo you will see that it has a metal outer cover and then a plastic inner cover followed by a cardboard housing. In the center, there is a carbon rod that makes up the positive of the battery. This is what we need and it just slides out with a bit of gentle persuasion.
Cut to length and sand down to the correct shape and voila you have a new brush.

Cut the old brush off keeping as much of the wire securing it to the unit. This is wedged under the spring and the new brush is inserted in the holder and the alternator is reassembled. On the Mitsu alternators, you will find a small hole on the back of the unit. This is to insert a short piece of stiff wire to hold the brushes away from the slip rings and helps with reassembly.

 This carbon rod can be used for any kind of brush and although it will not last for 100,000 km, it will get you out of trouble, it is fairly brittle so handle with care but shapes well on just about any rough surface, stones, and concrete fence poles even on rusted steel.

Trick #2
You opened the bonnet and found one of the wires burnt off or a connector burnt. Time to get out the solder and either, bypass the connector, or solder the terminal back on to the wire.
Wires burn because of loose connections carrying a lot of current and then arcing, I have never found a wire that has burnt off in the middle of the run, it is always at a connector or termination. Clean the terminal using sandpaper and cut back the burnt copper to healthy wire. The secret to a good solder joint is clean surfaces and enough heat. No soldering iron? No problem. Take your solder and pinch it flat using your pliers then wrap it around the joint. Use a normal Bic lighter to heat everything, as soon as the correct temperature is reached the solder will melt saturating the wire and joining on to the terminal, let cool and tape. The joint should be shiny in appearance indicating a good joint. If it is dull in appearance it is probably what is known in the trade as a dry joint where the solder does not adhere to the base causing a bad connection that will burn again.